After a disappointing opening weekend of Big Ten play in which it was swept by Minnesota, the Ohio State baseball team and head coach Greg Beals were badly in need of something positive to happen on the field.
“I think guys are pressing a little bit,” Beals told The Lantern after Saturday’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Gophers. “This is the time of the year when you’re struggling and you’re not winning games where that pressing can come into play, and we’ve got to fight that. We’ve got to stick to our process, stick to the fundamentals and the core values that we believe in and execute those.”
The pressing Beals spoke of seemed to still be present at the plate against Ohio University on Tuesday night at Bill Davis Stadium, as did the tough luck of hitting a lot of balls sharply right at defenders. That said, the Buckeyes did just enough to pull out a 3-0 win over the Bobcats, the team’s first shutout of 2017.
Jacob Barnwell was the difference maker for Ohio State, scoring a run and driving in a pair. His two-run single in the seventh gave the Buckeyes breathing room on a night when the pitching staff completely silenced OU’s lineup.
Austin Woodby took the ball to start what would be a group effort on the mound, the right-hander’s first appearance of the season not to come out of the bullpen. Woodby equipped himself well, tossing four innings of three-hit, shutout ball.
Following Woodby, Reece Calvert, Joe Stoll, Yianni Pavlopoulos, and Seth Kinker provided five shutout innings of relief, combining to allow just three hits and a walk while striking out five.
Dominic Canzone also went 3-for-4 for the scarlet and gray, his second consecutive multi-hit game.
Woodby and Ohio starter Cory Blessing both made quick work of the first three innings, with neither team able to get anything going offensively. After Woodby put up another zero in the fourth for Ohio State, the Bobcats went to the bullpen, and the Buckeyes got on the board.
With Nick Kamrada on the bump for the visitors, Barnwell worked a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jalen Washington. Noah McGowan then walked, but Barnwell took off running, making it into third safely. The Ohio State backstop came in to score when the throw went astray.
A lead in hand, the Buckeyes turned to Calvert out of the pen in the fifth. His last time out, the 6-foot-5 Texan got shelled for seven runs in 3.2 innings of work against Minnesota, but on this night breezed through his one inning of work in just 12 pitches.
Stoll, who also took his lumps against the Gophers (two runs in 0.1 innings), did Calvert one better, recording his three outs in just 11 pitches in the sixth. The southpaw also worked a scoreless seventh, punching out a pair.
The solid pitching for Ohio State helped obscure the fact that the offense continued to sputter. Through six innings, the club had a mere two hits, both of them singles by freshmen Canzone and Noah West, and had managed just the solitary run.
It was those same two rookies that got things going for the Buckeyes in the bottom of the seventh, though. Canzone collected an infield single and West was hit by a pitch from Bobcats’ reliever Jake Rudnicki to put two on with one out for the top of the order. Tre’ Gantt then worked an eight-pitch at-bat for a walk to load the bases.
That’s when Barnwell delivered what the club had been looking for the better part of a couple weeks, smacking a grounder right back up the middle to score both Canzone and West and make it a 3-0 game. One could almost hear the Ohio State dugout exhale.
Pavlopoulos made things a little more interesting than his bullpen brethren, yielding two singles to lead off the eighth, but the Buckeye closer came back to get a pair of strikeouts and a lineout to escape the threat. Kinker came on for the final frame, and after giving up a leadoff single of his own, retired the next three batters in quick succession.
The win pushed Ohio State’s record to 10-14 on the season ahead of the second weekend of Big Ten competition. Purdue, which lost two of three to Iowa last weekend, will travel to Columbus for a three-game set beginning Friday evening.